Residents erupted in anger when West Hollywood city staffers announced Thursday night that the aesthetics of a Morphosis-designed redevelopment of the Viper Room on the Sunset Strip would not be considered in a state-mandated environmental analysis.
“Who decided that aesthetics wouldn’t be considered?” Susan Milrod asked, shouting.
“That’s why I came here,” another resident added.
The city of West Hollywood hosted the public meeting to update residents on the project, review the environmental impact report process, and get feedback from the community. They got an earful.
The property owner, represented and managed by Plus Development, is planning to raze the Viper Room and reincorporate it into two distinct high-rises designed by Thom Mayne’s Los Angeles firm, Morphosis. The buildings would bring another 115 hotel rooms to the Strip, plus 31 market-rate condos and 11 affordable units. (Plus Development was cofounded by Tyrone McKillen, the agent who developed and sold Beyonce and Jay-Z their Bel Air house).
The futuristic-looking development would be made up of two structures: a C-shaped building clenching a more familiar rectangular-shaped structured clad in glass.
City staffers planned to have breakout sessions after the presentation to further discuss the project and hear from community members. But many residents weren’t okay with that.
“That won’t work because all of us here are all on the same page,” one woman said.
Milrod asked the group of about 30 people in attendance to raise their hands if they opposed the project. The majority did. Asked who was in favor, one man, Richard Lewis, bravely raised his hand.
“Something’s gonna get built,” Lewis said. “It might as well look interesting.”
Lewis, who has lived in West Hollywood for 46 years, said the project will create more jobs. He also liked that it will provide affordable housing.
But most residents were concerned with how it looks.
“It doesn’t belong on Sunset Boulevard,” said Jessica Hancock, who has lived in West Hollywood for 47 years. She said the design of the building looks like something that “could be in Dubai or Vegas.”
“It’s too tall, too massive, and the design is grotesque,” said Richard Rothenberg.
Doug Vu, senior planner for the city of West Hollywood, said projects like this one that are within a “transit priority” area, meaning it’s close to a significant transit corridor, can exclude aesthetics under state regulations. The aesthetics were reviewed in an initial study.
“But that doesn’t mean that the planning commission or the City Council can’t consider the issue of aesthetics and render their decision,” he says. “It just may not be considered an environmental issue per se under the California Environmental Quality Act.”
As part of the environmental review process, city staffers are asking the public to submit feedback about the plans by October 25 via email to Vu at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via mail at 8300 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069.